Is truly humane dairy farming possible? - VeggieBoards
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#1 Old 01-01-2011, 11:24 AM
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Noticed a few people that took a survey in the vegetarian support forum mention they'd consider consuming dairy again if high humane standards were set. This made me wonder, is humane dairy farming possible, especially considering potential demand? Rather than hijack the thread, I thought it would be an interesting topic to discuss. Not that I'd ever go back to eating dairy but I'm curious. Here are some questions I posed:

Quote:
...I'm just wondering if humane dairy farming is possible in order to meet demand. Wouldn't the cows still need to be impregnated? Would the farmer have to wait for each cow to become pregnant on her own or would they still be forcibly impregnated? The calf would drink a portion of the milk and may also be allowed to grow up. Would it be profitable enough for them to want to pursue humane dairy farming? Would they end up with too many bulls? What would the farmers do to ensure each cow's health and avoid common problems like mastitis or milk fever? Would cows be kept alive until they die naturally even after milk production decreases with age rather than being turned into cheap ground beef? I imagine people would still need to limit their dairy consumption quite a bit in order for it to be sustainable and not have an overabundance of demand that they couldn't handle. Just a thought, maybe I should start a new thread for discussion. \t\t\t\t\t\t

Hope I'm creating this thread in the right place, please feel free to move it if necessary!

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#2 Old 01-01-2011, 11:29 AM
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From what Earthling has told about the "ahimsa milk" farm she works at, I would assume humane dairy farming is possible, but
a) I don't know that without personally witnessing the whole practice of keeping animals for a long period of time
b) as you are implying, it probably wouldn't be humane anymore if it was generalized to meet the demands of the whole population

But I think 'humane' is inherently an animal welfare -oriented term. Whether we want to use animals at all and view them through the traditional cultural roles of product-providers is another ethical issue.

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#3 Old 01-01-2011, 12:13 PM
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It's difficult for me to apply the label of 'humane' to a process of viewing another animal (human or otherwise) as a resource to meet my demand.

I could see symbiotic relationships (that aren't parasitical) in a world where we don't just view everything as a resource for our ends and both parties can choose to be in the situation (as in the milk setting, cows live how they want and interact with us on their terms, not just on our terms). I just don't think humans are at that point.

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#4 Old 01-01-2011, 12:27 PM
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Originally Posted by Sevenseas View Post

But I think 'humane' is inherently an animal welfare -oriented term. Whether we want to use animals at all and view them through the traditional cultural roles of product-providers is another ethical issue.

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It's difficult for me to apply the label of 'humane' to a process of viewing another animal (human or otherwise) as a resource to meet my demand.

Excellent points.

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#5 Old 01-01-2011, 12:51 PM
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As Sevenseas said, I work at a dairy farm sanctuary that meets my definition of "humane". It still can be seen as an inherently parasitic relationship but I am personally satisfied that the cows are happy and that the people who work there, and most of the people who drink their milk, are not seeing them as commodities or walking vending machines. They are sacred, revered, respected and loved. From an AR perspective there are of course still things 'wrong' with the practice and relationship but for me, my conscience is clear.

Anyway I can answer your questions with regards to our goshalla (Sanskrit for 'place where cows are protected):

Quote:
...I'm just wondering if humane dairy farming is possible in order to meet demand.

No, it isn't. If ahimsa milk was made standard, people would have to drastically reduce their dairy consumption and treat milk and dairy products as precious commodities. People would have to pay the true price of milk, not the price of misery and slaughter that they currently pay for a litre of blood milk. This would be better for the cows, human health, and the whole human race IMO.

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Wouldn't the cows still need to be impregnated? Would the farmer have to wait for each cow to become pregnant on her own or would they still be forcibly impregnated?

Yes, cows need to have a calf before giving milk in the vast majority of cases. It's not unheard of for a cow to spontaneously lactate, which can also happen in humans, but no farming system can rely on that freak occurrence. Artificial insemination is not sanctioned in the scriptures so we don't use it. We have a bull, Kamadeva (means Cupid) and every year he gets some new girlfriends to do it with the natural way. Sometimes he escapes and we get unexpected pregnancies, and sometimes our girls jump the fence and meet an amorous neighbouring bull. Whilst it's not their choice whether they're put with Kamadeva or not, it's certainly nothing like the rape racks you get farmers 'joking' about. I can testify that the girls really adore Kamadeva, when it's time to leave him and have their calves they really don't want to say goodbye. Unfortunately it's too risky to let them calve with him around.

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The calf would drink a portion of the milk and may also be allowed to grow up. Would it be profitable enough for them to want to pursue humane dairy farming?

This is what we do. The calves and mothers stay together until the calf starts chewing the cud and doesn't rely on milk as a sole source of nutrition. Then they are put in adjacent pens so they can always see each other, touch noses, groom each other and so forth. The cow is milked and then put in with her baby. They're very clever and know to keep back enough milk to feed the baby. The calf usually needs about 25% of what she produces - we all know cows make much more milk than is necessary for their babies - and she give us the other 75%. Interestingly, cows will also hold back their milk if they don't like the milker or if the milker is nervous or angry or feeling some other unsettling emotion. I've experienced this myself, the girls wouldn't give me as much milk as they usually give until I bonded with them and got to know them.

As for profitiability, the economics are something of a problem. To account for keeping the cows in old age as well as the bulls, we need to factor in that cost in the price of the milk. At any one time about 1/3 - 1/4 of the herd is producing milk, and these girls have to pay for everybody as well as for themselves when they dry up. This is why we charge £3.50 for a litre compared to the £0.70 people pay for blood milk. A surprising number of people are fine with that, but convincing the meat-eating masses that this is what they SHOULD be paying is not easy. I spend quite a large amount of my time preaching about cow protection and really, it isn't easy.

Quote:
Would they end up with too many bulls?

We have 18 oxen, 1 bull and 32 heifers/cows. For those who don't know, a heifer is a female who hasn't had a calf yet. We don't sell, slaughter or euthanise any of our cows but there are a few reasons we end up with a much higher ratio of girls: firstly, bull calves are much more likely to be stillborn, die at birth, or die in young infancy. I'm not sure why but this is common to all herds and not just our farm. Secondly, bulls tend to not live as long, much like human women have a longer life expectancy than men. When they are big enough our boys work, things like ploughing and hay-making. It stops them getting bored, exercises them, helps the ox drivers bond with them and also cuts down on our fossil fuel emissions and makes us more self-sufficient.

Quote:
What would the farmers do to ensure each cow's health and avoid common problems like mastitis or milk fever? Would cows be kept alive until they die naturally even after milk production decreases with age rather than being turned into cheap ground beef?

We have two cow nurses who do a daily herd check. They will look at each cow's posture, behaviour, general condition, eyes, smell, etc. every day to catch any problems early. We have one girl, Ana, with eye cancer. She has been getting chemotherapy but it doesn't seem to be working so she might be taking a trip to Liverpool to get radiotherapy soon. The most common problems are general cuts and scrapes, which you will get in a place where their horns aren't burnt off at birth. Mastitis is a very rare problem for us because we hand milk instead of using machines, and we don't demand high yields. Our highest producer gives about 13 litres a day compared to the 20 - 30 that is common in most farms. Even our oldest girls who might have had 4 calves, the bottom of their teats never falls below the knees. Most of our cows have udders so small that you can barely see them without bending down. I have never heard of any cow having milk fever in the 30 year history of the goshalla.

None of our cows will ever go for beef, or to market, or be sold, or slaughtered, or euthanised. One cow, Haribolananda, lived until she was 28 after about 15 years of unproductive retirement. Oxen work from the ages of 4 - 15ish, the girls will generally lactate for about 6-8 years over their lifetime. The average lifespan is 18 years for our herd. We don't value them based on what they give us, they are each individual and beautiful souls who deserve the most respect and the best care we can give them. The only privileges the productive cows get is more intensively nutritious food, i.e. grains, because the demands on their body (to produce milk or work the land) are higher than the retired ones.

Quote:
I imagine people would still need to limit their dairy consumption quite a bit in order for it to be sustainable and not have an overabundance of demand that they couldn't handle.

You're absolutely right, and I think that would be a very good thing for all involved.
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#6 Old 01-01-2011, 01:07 PM
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To Earthling:
Wow. I am so impressed... and I have to say, jealous that you get to spend so much time with beautiful cows. I wish the US regarded cows with respect, they are amazing creatures and have such big hearts.

I think it MIGHT be possible to humanely (from a welfare standpoint) milk cows if, say, small communities have their own cows, bulls, etc and they don't sell the milk. They could just consume the milk at an available/not available basis. Does that make sense? I could see the ahimsa process working in this way, but not for an entire population. Maybe in the future people will live in small, self-sustainable communities that grow their own food and obtain their own milk, and only import what they absolutely need. One can only dream...

Of course as far as AR goes, milking really doesn't work, since we would still be using an animal for our consumption.
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#7 Old 01-01-2011, 01:12 PM
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Earthling, I'm jealous. I met some cows at a farm sanctuary once. They are beautiful people. Just wish I could spend more time with them.

As for the subject, dairy farming is still using cows for human ends. So there is an inherent danger of losing the peoplehood of the cows to their ability to provide a resource for us. Humans don't need milk to survive or flourish. I think taking milk away from a mother's calf automatically precludes any humane way to harvest milk.

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#8 Old 01-01-2011, 01:32 PM
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hey earthling--

thanks so much for explaining all this. ive been wondering about your farm since i (recently) started reading the board. its interesting and enlightening to see a farm that is truly committed to keeping all its animals rather than sending them to slaughter. its just a shame that society today generally sees milk as a right that they are entitled to at all costs, and that most people dont respect animals enough to be willing to support farms such as this one. while i still would choose not to use dairy, its interesting to me to see a way that its being done without the suffering and murder that goes on in most of the dairy industry.
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#9 Old 01-01-2011, 01:36 PM
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Cows only produce milk when nursing. Unless the baby calf tragically passes away and the only way to relieve the mother is to milk her, there's really no reason for a human to milk a cow. I would consider it stealing. Also, I have no taste for dairy any more and my body is probably better off without it.

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#10 Old 01-01-2011, 01:37 PM
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I dunno Earthy... I don't think we can be convinced without a picture of the lovely cows....


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#11 Old 01-01-2011, 01:45 PM
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I dunno Earthy... I don't think we can be convinced without a picture of the lovely cows....




Maybe several pictures... you know. So we can REALLY make sure. *cough*
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#12 Old 01-01-2011, 02:06 PM
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Welllllllll I don't want to hijack the thread but okay, you wore me down



Kamadeva the bull looking all handsome with his big butt. He has no horns because we bought him from somewhere that burns them off or cuts them or whatever horrible thing it is they do. He looks like two tonnes of pure machismo and has a terrifying bellow, but actually he is two tonnes of pure shyness. He spends much of his time raging around his field vocalising, LOUDLY, that it is HIS field and nobody should DARE come near it. However if somebody does dare to invade Kamadeva’s field, Kamadeva will quickly retreat into a far corner and express that maybe actually it is quite a large field and anyway his mother taught him to share so perhaps we can come to some sort of arrangement where we all live happily in the field, as long as Kamadeva can still moo a lot and look really fierce. Looking really fierce and mooing a lot seems to be just what a cow looks for in a bull because they really do love him...



This is Kesava and his mum, Yamuna. She adores him



Ganga getting a nice groom. Ganga is our oldest cow, she was born 4th November 1992.



Bharat being cuddled by the farm supervisor. In case anyone is wondering, the mark on his nose/forehead is a spiritual mark, we put it on every morning. in



Sukadeva, one of my favourite boys

I didn't get many pics in the summer when they were out on the fields but they spend most of the year at pasture. They're in for the winter because there is nothing for them to eat out there.
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#13 Old 01-01-2011, 03:34 PM
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Thank you Earthling for sharing your story and your pictures. I adore cows and like everyone else, am very jealous that you get to spend so much time with them! This is a great thread!

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#14 Old 01-01-2011, 03:37 PM
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Thank you for taking the time to answer questions regarding your goshalla. I wouldn't mind if you posted pictures of those absolutely gorgeous cows in every thread. <3

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#15 Old 01-01-2011, 04:06 PM
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I think that there are some methods of farming that could be considered humane enough to meet many people's standards. However, it would not be possible to do those kinds of farming techniques and also meet the current demand for animal products or anything remotely close to the current demand. It would have to be the kind of farming where people ate animal products very rarely and only on special occassions.

The current demand for so-called human farming already exceeds the supply. Everyone who opposes factory farming - regardless of whether or not they think humane farming is an acceptable alternative - ought to promote veganism because veganism is the only practical solution.
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#16 Old 01-01-2011, 04:25 PM
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Thank you so much Earthling! That seriously made my day.. They look so happy.
I want to just give them all big hugs and pet their noses.
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#17 Old 01-01-2011, 04:52 PM
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Omg Earthling!!! You made me **squee** so much! I can't express how jealous I am of where you get to work!
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#18 Old 01-01-2011, 08:18 PM
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I have a question...is it considered vegan when people consume milk from cows that are treated well and humanely, such as in Earthling's case or are vegans not supposed to consume milk at all however the milk is obtained? Or is it only abolitionist vegans who would consider drinking milk non-vegan?
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#19 Old 01-01-2011, 08:51 PM
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I have a question...is it considered vegan when people consume milk from cows that are treated well and humanely, such as in Earthling's case or are vegans not supposed to consume milk at all however the milk is obtained? Or is it only abolitionist vegans who would consider drinking milk non-vegan?

If you drink milk you're not vegan, no matter how well the cows that produce it are treated. As others have said, although truly humane dairy farming is possible it's not practical on a large scale. I believe that commercial dairy production as an institution is inherently unethical and avoid it as such.

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#20 Old 01-01-2011, 09:03 PM
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I would think the general idea is that animals do not exist to be used/exploited by humans in any way despite treatment although it is great to see that they are treated well where Earthlings works.

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#21 Old 01-01-2011, 09:14 PM
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We don't sell, slaughter or euthanise any of our cows but there are a few reasons we end up with a much higher ratio of girls: firstly, bull calves are much more likely to be stillborn, die at birth, or die in young infancy. I'm not sure why but this is common to all herds and not just our farm.

I'm not a biology major, but I think in species where the animals don't pair for life, there is normally a higher ratio of males to females. This is because males can impreganate more than one female each breeding season.

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#22 Old 01-01-2011, 09:42 PM
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To Earthling:
Wow. I am so impressed... and I have to say, jealous that you get to spend so much time with beautiful cows. I wish the US regarded cows with respect, they are amazing creatures and have such big hearts.

I think it MIGHT be possible to humanely (from a welfare standpoint) milk cows if, say, small communities have their own cows, bulls, etc and they don't sell the milk. They could just consume the milk at an available/not available basis. Does that make sense? I could see the ahimsa process working in this way, but not for an entire population. Maybe in the future people will live in small, self-sustainable communities that grow their own food and obtain their own milk, and only import what they absolutely need. One can only dream...

Of course as far as AR goes, milking really doesn't work, since we would still be using an animal for our consumption.

I just want to mention that the kind of farm that Earthling is talking about (cow protection/goshalla) is something that has a following in many countries, including the US. ( http://www.iscowp.org/ )

As far as Animal Rights goes, most of these cows are saved from the abuses of factory farms and are treated with a lot of love and attention....in exchange they give a percentage of milk or bulls do some farm work. I'd say in this situation it is a relationship...not exploitation.

Kudos to Earthling for all of her efforts in the name of Cow Protection.
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#23 Old 01-01-2011, 10:01 PM
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As far as Animal Rights goes, most of these cows are saved from the abuses of factory farms and are treated with a lot of love and attention....in exchange they give a percentage of milk or bulls do some farm work. I'd say in this situation it is a relationship...not exploitation.

Well, I guess it's a difference of what one means by 'animal rights.' I think it's great for the cows (and other animals) to be in situations like what Earthling is a part of, only because of the situation of greater animal exploitation.

While the situation is acceptable and preferable to factory farming, the situation of 'in exchange they give a percentage of milk or bulls do some farm work' is a contract setup for and implemented by humans.

I don't know the details of what Earthling is a part of, but based on what I've read from her, I like that there are people providing for cows.

I'd still like to see less animal use in the world.

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#24 Old 01-01-2011, 10:26 PM
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We know that "free range" eggs are a scam. I assume "humane dairy" would likely be a similar scam.
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#25 Old 01-02-2011, 12:14 AM
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I have a question...is it considered vegan when people consume milk from cows that are treated well and humanely, such as in Earthling's case or are vegans not supposed to consume milk at all however the milk is obtained? Or is it only abolitionist vegans who would consider drinking milk non-vegan?

I haven't considered myself vegan since I started taking part in milking my cows. I figured that I clearly do not have an ethical objection to *all* situations where animals are used, so I no longer have a vegan ethic. It's much more than diet, it's lifestyle and attitude and my lifestyle and attitude is definitely not vegan any more. I still promote veganism to everyone I preach to, and make sure they know that our farm is absolutely an exception to the rule. I tell them what we do, then what regular farms do, and make sure they know that the dairy they buy is a product of misery and blood.

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I'm not a biology major, but I think in species where the animals don't pair for life, there is normally a higher ratio of males to females. This is because males can impreganate more than one female each breeding season.

That makes sense but there aren't very good biological measures in place, for mammals, to determine the sex of a foetus and so the balance is usually only slightly in the favour of females. Think 48% to 52% or something like that. I guess a higher rate of abortion or abnormal birthing is the only way nature has to cut down on the number of males born.

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We know that "free range" eggs are a scam. I assume "humane dairy" would likely be a similar scam.

My brand of humane dairy is definitely no scam.
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#26 Old 01-02-2011, 12:31 AM
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As far as Animal Rights goes, most of these cows are saved from the abuses of factory farms and are treated with a lot of love and attention....in exchange they give a percentage of milk or bulls do some farm work. I'd say in this situation it is a relationship...not exploitation.

Since cows have been bred by humans, without their consent, to be milk producing machines, you can hardly call it a fair exchange, if their rescuers demand milk in exchange for better care than they get from factory farms. I'd like to think that the people who run these kinds of farms view the milk and the services they extract from their oxen as something to be grateful for, not entitled to.

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#27 Old 01-02-2011, 01:41 AM
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My brand of humane dairy is definitely no scam.

And I don't consider someone eating their own well-treated chicken's eggs a scam either. But having our own chickens and cows isn't feasible for the vast majority of us, and there is no way to know for sure if the animals were treated humanely if we weren't there... And I have trouble seeing any widespread commercial "humane dairy" movement not running into similar problems as "free range" eggs.
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#28 Old 01-02-2011, 07:29 AM
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Since cows have been bred by humans, without their consent, to be milk producing machines, you can hardly call it a fair exchange, if their rescuers demand milk in exchange for better care than they get from factory farms. I'd like to think that the people who run these kinds of farms view the milk and the services they extract from their oxen as something to be grateful for, not entitled to.

How would we know if the cows give consent?
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#29 Old 01-02-2011, 08:17 AM
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I dont think animals are able to consent.

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#30 Old 01-02-2011, 09:07 AM
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As others have said, although truly humane dairy farming is possible it's not practical on a large scale.


Agreed.

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And I don't consider someone eating their own well-treated chicken's eggs a scam either. But having our own chickens and cows isn't feasible for the vast majority of us, and there is no way to know for sure if the animals were treated humanely if we weren't there... And I have trouble seeing any widespread commercial "humane dairy" movement not running into similar problems as "free range" eggs.

It is actually much more difficult/impossible to sustain a humane chicken movement, other than as a rescue from current practices. The problem is that roosters are by nature aggressive toward each other and, unlike bulls, cannot be neutered (at least not with current veterinary knowledge) to curb that aggression. If you let hens hatch out fertilized eggs, roughly half of the chicks will be male. As they mature, they will become aggressive, fighting each other and eventually maiming/killing each other. The only way to avoid this would be to house each rooster separately. That would take a lot of space to do and still give them a rich life.

With cows, it is possible to let a cow give birth and eventually neuter male offsprig to avoid bull on bull aggression, as is done at the place at which Earthling works. A small family of cows could be maintained in that way, whether or not the neutered males are used for some farming tasks, and whether or not excess milk is taken. The same is not feasible for chickens in the long run. If one wanted a sustainable, humane way of getting eggs, one would need to turn to ducks. Drakes aren't as aggressive toward other drakes as roosters are - it's possible to maintain a small flock of ducks with multiple drakes - but it's still best for the females to outnumber the males by a ratio of at least two or three to one, to avoid aggression.
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